February 28, 2009

One More Time

Over at Thinking Anglicans, someone has opined that the departure of individual dioceses from The Episcopal Church is analogous to the departure of the Church of England and the See of Utrecht from the Roman Catholic Church.

These are not properly analogous, however, and not simply as matters of scale. The diocese -- all claims to the contrary notwithstanding -- is not self-sufficient in the Catholic tradition, in part because it can only obtain a bishop with the consent of the bishops of other dioceses of the province of which it forms a part (or, in some places, the metropolitan or archbishop). If it is a "unit" is like a cell of a body, or brick of a building: not self-sufficient on its own.

The historic actions in the 16th and 19th centuries, whereby the Church of England and the See of Utrecht severed their ties with Rome relate both to their original autonomy and to the understanding that these bodies represent "churches" rather than simply dioceses. (This is what having an archbishop is about, in part, and having metropolitical or provincial status.) The "national church" or province was the minimal defining entity as a "church" in the Christian (i.e., Orthodox) tradition until Rome began to assert a universal primacy. Individual dioceses have no authority to withdraw from their province unilaterally; national churches do have the right to assert their autonomy from the central hegemony of Rome. Two different things.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

February 25, 2009

A Follow-Up Thought

Following up on the thought from the 23rd...,

To grant special exemptions (from the need to obey laws that protect other human rights) on the basis of religion creates a hierarchy of rights in which religion trumps everything else. This is, precisely, a form of establishment of religion.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

February 24, 2009

Thought for 02.23.09

When ideology interferes with human rights we tread on dangerous ground — covered, sadly, with many footprints.

— Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG,
in response to this post on Episcopal Café

February 21, 2009

Thought for 02.21.09

To demand courtesy is to rob courtesy of its meaning.

—Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

February 20, 2009

The Book

Well, I've sent off the page proofs for Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality and so I hope the production department will keep to schedule and the book will be off press by late March / early April. In the meantime, I'm starting a second blog, also called "Reasonable and Holy" to the end of continuing the conversation begun in the book, and also as a way to offer additional resources that the book didn't end up including (such as, I hope, a complete index and index of sources). These may be more useful and practical in electronic form in any case.

The book itself s intended in part as a fulfillment of the “Listening Process” mandated by Lambeth 1998.1.10, and as a response and rebuttal to the familiar arguments raised against the morality of faithful, life-long, monogamous same-sex relationships.

Should any interesting conversations develop over there, I'll flag them here. And vice versa.

In the meantime, I'm busy with getting ready for the beginning of Lent and my parish's Annual Meeting on March 1 (this was once thought a good idea for avoiding blizzards; it doesn't work so well for avoiding Lent!).


February 6, 2009

Some thoughts on unity and division

Over at Jan Nunley's blog, there is a lively discussion between her good self and Matt Kennedy. It is the usual case of dueling Scriptures, but it seems to be going on in a good spirit, without recrimination. As I was cited briefly, in light of my forthcoming book on the subject (now in page proofs) I felt the need to make a comment, regarding matters raised, in particular regarding Leviticus 18 and Romans 1. The book addresses these things in exhaustive (and I hope not exhausting) detail. But in the world of the bite-size blog, I did want to approach my larger concern about how our current disagreements are affecting the church.

The Leviticus passage explicitly only applies to men, and at that only to Jewish men or those living in the Holy Land. That is what the text says. Broader application is reading into the text; which, of course, many have done. But then we move from sola scriptura to the authority of the church. I recognize the authority of the church in this regard, but, as an Anglican, also admit that the church can and has erred, even in matters of faith and morals.

Romans 1 is not about life-long committed same-sex relationships. It may or may not refer to female same-sexuality; some of the early church fathers thought not; a few and more later ones did. (Again this gets into the church as interpreter, rather than the text itself.) The text alone, taken as a rhetorical whole, is about the perils of idolatry: what happens to idolaters as a result of their idolatry. At that, the same-sexuality it describes is not that of commitment, but of lust, disorder, and orgy. The "context" does not apply to Christian couples.

I realize Matt disagrees with my interpretation of Scripture. But that is my freedom as a Christian, a member of the church, and I am far from being alone in my interpretation. Speaking personally, I take this to be a part of what Paul was addressing in Romans 14:14. I do not, by this, mean to be placing a stumbling block in anyone's way, and if my freedom is leading anyone to transgression in judging their brothers and sisters, I regret that. I can only counsel they consider that the creation of factions and divisions over disagreements as to what is right or not lies at the heart of Paul's concern for the well-being of the church; and the way forward, according to the Gospel, is to take an attitude of forbearance, and restraint of judgment of others, while leading a life of holiness in one's own understanding, without giving -- or taking -- offense, so far as that within us lies.

If I am mistaken in my understanding of Scripture, along with those who take Scripture as I do, I trust that God forgives me. I place my ultimate reliance not in my own understanding or performance, but upon the assurance that God forgives those who err, even when, perhaps especially when, they do not know their error. And I think that goes for others, too.

In the meantime, the question seems to me to be, What leads to peace and the spread of that gospel? -- the gospel that is not about works of righteousness through the Law, or careful observation of its strictures (which cannot save) but rather upon the mercy of God and the love shown to those who also bear Christ's name, and to those who do not yet know him. Are we presenting a face to the pagan world that would make them at all desirous of coming to know Christ?

So that, for me, points to the whole question of division and disagreement in the church. And that brings me back to the current mess in the Anglican Communion, and the quest towards greater unity through the establishment of a Covenant that will bind the churches closer together than affectionate means seem to have made possible. Christopher, ever insightful, has commented at his blog about the perils of placing any unifying authority in the place of Christ, who is the only legitimate head of the church. Not the Pope, not the Archbishop of Canterbury, not even the English Monarch. Seeking unity in some edifice other than God-in-Christ and Christ-in-us is precisely the error of Babel. It is the creation of a self-sufficient unity that has no real foundation. And the movement of Anglicanism away from its pilgrimage orientation (as C S Lewis said, as friends facing a common object of adoration outside of ourselves) towards preoccupation and infatuation with our own unified edifice, is an ecclesiastical error of the worst sort.

It strikes me that these two things go together: it is all about power over others, to make them conform to ones own understanding, rather than living under the grace that tolerates the misapprehension that befalls us all. The libido dominandi, in ecclesiastical form, will not bring us to Christ. The Law cannot save. We are called rather to accept that the kingdom of God is among us, realized in our love for each other in Christ, not in the structures and strictures we may connive to foster greater unity. There can be no greater unity than that which binds up the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit -- the ground of all being, the creator not only of this world, nor even of all worlds, nor even only of the universe, but of every possible universe that is or might be. If we are to be one as Christ and the Father are one, we must simply open our hands to recieve that unity, which is and always will be, not of our own doing, but a gift from God.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

February 5, 2009

Unsteady As She Goes

It seems appropriate for the 501st post on this blog to comment on the recently ended meeting of the Primates. Jim Naughton has some very astute observations to make about the meeting itself, its communiqué, and more importantly (as he recognizes) the Windsor Continuation Group report.

I will confine myself to observing that the latter seems set on continuing to press a course towards what it regards as a safe harbor, which to my eye resembles a world-Church rather than a communion of churches-in-fellowship. There is also a continued drift towards more authority for the Primates themselves, which I can't help but see as redundant and troublesome. I make no bones about my traditional Anglican preference for a group of churches in communion, as opposed to a single world-Church. If I wanted the latter, I could have joined one; and I see no need to create another one, since the Roman Catholic Church does a very effective job of being one.

Still, there is enough leeway in the proposed direction of this chart to allow for adjustment, should the proposed harbor not prove to have the depth to accommodate the Anglican vessel. Or should it become apparent that it isn't a harbor, but a shoal upon which our efforts might well run aground.

In the meantime, there is certainly no joy in Mudville, as the angriest dissidents will see little promise in the present document at all. Those who have jumped ship in hopes of swift rescue by another commodious steamer are, I think, going to be treading water for a while.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

February 1, 2009

Presentation Triptych

Variations on Rosa Mystica:
Left Panel: "They brought him to the Temple"
Center Panel: "A sword shall pierce your heart"
Right Panel: "Lord, let your servant go in peace"

A work for string quartet from 1980

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

MP3 File